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Empire State freelances gain new legal protection

FREELANCES WILL have a right to a contract and to timely payment for work in the US State of New York - the "Empire State" - under a state law adopted on 3 June 2022. The statute, enacted by the the New York state legislature, and promoted by the NUJ's sister union, The Writer's Guild, extends a right that has existed in New York City since 2017.


Tammy Kim at the International Federation of Journalists triennial gathering in Oman this week

"The NYC Freelance Isn't Free law has collected more than $2 billion in unpaid fees for freelance workers," said Larry Goldbetter, President of the National Writers Union. "The New York State law will improve on the collection of fees and enforcement of contracts, by lowering the eligibility threshold for freelancers that would be protected by the law, and capturing a much wider pool of freelance workers, especially Black, immigrant and women freelancers, who are most often at the lower end of the payment schedule."

The new protection was announced at the moment of its enactment to the International Federation of Journalists congress in Muscat, Oman. Tammy Kim, an official of the union, said: "We hope this will prove to be a template for freelances around the world".

Goldbetter explained that a contract is only required when the value of work exceeds $800. "We had argued for a much lower qualifying value - but once you have a figure on the statue book, you have a point from which to campaign for better". The Union's next aim is to have the law adopted in Los Angeles.

The protection in respect of payment does not exceed standard legal terms in the UK, although many ultimately wait longer for pay from platforms that operate payment-on-publication policies.